Sunday, May 17, 2020

American mishandling of the pandemic - March 6th is Trump's day of infamy.

I picked up this Financial Times article from a tweet by MSNBC host Nicole Wallace. The author, Edward Luce, is the FT’s US national editor.

Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown | Free to read. What went wrong in the president’s first real crisis — and what does it mean for the US?

Following are some of my reactions mixed with a few excerpts from the FT article.

When the history is written of how America handled the global era’s first real pandemic, March 6 [2020] will leap out of the timeline. That was the day Donald Trump visited the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. His foray to the world’s best disease research body was meant to showcase that America had everything under control. It came midway between the time he was still denying the coronavirus posed a threat and the moment he said he had always known it could ravage America.

[Several days later] Trump’s mindset became increasingly surreal. He began to tout hydroxychloroquine as a cure for Covid–19. On March 19, at a regular televised briefing, which he conducted daily for five weeks, often rambling for more than two hours, he depicted the antimalarial drug as a potential magic bullet. It could be “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine”, he later tweeted.

The thing is that hydroxychloroquine is dangerous for those with heart troubles. But it got worse.

When Trump suggested in late April that people could stop Covid–19, or even cure themselves, by injecting disinfectant, such as Lysol or Dettol, his chief scientist, Deborah Birx, did not dare contradict him. The leading bleach companies issued statements urging customers not to inject or ingest disinfectant because it could be fatal. The CDC only issued a cryptic tweet advising Americans to: “Follow the instructions on the product label.”

That silence is symptomatic of the status of science under Trump. “Scientists across Washington are terrified of saying anything that contradicts Trump.”

“The way to keep your job is to out-loyal everyone else, which means you have to tolerate quackery,” says Anthony Scaramucci, an estranged former Trump adviser, who was briefly his White House head of communications. “You have to flatter him in public and flatter him in private. Above all, you must never make him feel ignorant.”

An administration official says advising Trump is like “bringing fruits to the volcano” – Trump being the lava source. “You’re trying to appease a great force that’s impervious to reason,” says the official.

And retaliation is the name of the game in Trump world. In a whistleblower complaint, Rick Bright (the federal scientist in charge of developing a vaccine0 said he was pressured to send millions of dollars worth of contracts to a company controlled by a friend of Jared Kushner. When he refused, he was fired.

The short of it is that Trump is failing, failing to unite us, failing to keep us safe, failing to keep us healthy, failing to keep us prosperous. Yep, he is failing our economy too. So he cannot credibly use any of this in his campaign.

Luce concludes:

“Trump is caught in a box which keeps getting smaller,” says George Conway, a Republican lawyer who is married to Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counsellor. “In my view he is a sociopath and a malignant narcissist. When a person suffering from these disorders feels the world closing in on them, their tendencies get worse. They lash out and fantasise and lose any ability to think rationally.” Conway is known for taunting Trump on Twitter (to great effect, it should be added: Trump often retaliates).

Yet without exception, everyone I interviewed, including the most ardent Trump loyalists, made a similar point to Conway. Trump is deaf to advice, said one. He is his own worst enemy, said another. He only listens to family, said a third. He is mentally imbalanced, said a fourth. America, in other words, should brace itself for a turbulent six months ahead – with no assurance of a safe landing.

Now go read the full history Luce lays out in the Financial Times report.

And then, when you awake tomorrow morning, the number of deaths in the USA will exceed 90,000.

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